The Imminent Pre-Trib
Coming Of Christ
By Dr. Ken Johnson
(Editor’s Note: The following sermon was preached at the 34th Annual Missions Conference of Tabernacle Baptist Church, Lubbock, Texas, March 13-15, 1995. The theme of the Conference was „The Premillennial Second Coming Of Jesus Christ.”–E. L. Bynum)
TEXT: TITUS 2:13
Thirty-four years ago I was privileged to stand in this pulpit and preach in the opening services of the First Annual Missions Conference of Tabernacle Baptist Church pastored by E. L. Bynum. I have also counted it a privilege to be present and speak in many of the services in subsequent Conferences that have followed.
The annual verse to be emphasized this year has been the text I have chosen for the subject matter of my message:
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;… (Titus 2:13)
The pastor has assigned the subject of „The Imminent Pre-Trib Coming of Christ” for the message I am to bring; I rejoice to confess 34 years and more past, this church taught this doctrine and I continue to rejoice that the halls of this Truth are still found solidly proclaimed after over half a century of unwavering love for this BLESSED HOPE.
I am fully aware that I cannot deal with every problem relative to the Imminent Pre-Trib Coming of Christ. I do intend with purpose and design to confront some of the problems men confront us with that denies the very essence of this hope. Their arguments are legion but I am convinced they are totally mistaken and without credulity.
–The A-Mill scholar B.B. Warfield, a Presbyterian, wrote: „The Plan and Structure of the book [of Revelation–KJ], the whole of which seems to have been seen by John in one day (1:10), are exceeding artistic, and are based on progressive repetitions of seven-fold visions….It is of the first importance to its correct understanding, that we should grasp the fact that its prime design is not chronological, but ethical.” [B.B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings, Vol. II, pp. 86,87.]
–William Hendriksen, another A-Mill, follows Warfield and states the Book of Revelation: „…was intended not only for those who first read it, but for all believers throughout this entire dispensation… [p.10]” and that „The book of Revelation consists of seven sections. They are parallel and each spans the entire new dispensation, from the first to the second Coming of Christ. [p.22].” [W. Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors, pp. 10 & 22.]
These two thus deny the 1,000 year reign and equate the seven years tribulation to nothing more than historical persecution leading to the Second Coming and general resurrection and judgment.
Kimball, another of this same thinking, in fact says, „No where in the Scriptures does the word ‘Tribulation’ refer to a final, seven year period of unparalleled distress at the close of this present age.” [W. R. Kimball, What The Bible Says About The Great Tribulation, p.112.]
I point this out to display the position of those who deny any dispensational aspect of the doctrine of the Second Coming and deny the Seven Years Tribulation. Bro. Larry Jones will deal with this subject in detail. I will only say these men follow a „Soteriocentric Eschatology which is wrong when they are forced to the position Brinsmead holds when he concludes: „NO ONE who genuinely and consistently holds to the apostolic and Reformation principle of Justification by faith can be a dispensationalist. It is as simple as that. [R. D. Brinsmead, „Justification by Faith…” in Present Truth, Dec. 1975, p.21.]
Those who are universal church and dispensational holding either Post-Trib or Mid-Trib or Pre- Wrath rapture embrace a Soteriocentric Ecclesiology which embraces a concept of the church as „all the redeemed” and insist it endures the Tribulation in whole or in part.
Ladd in his two works –The Gospel of The Kingdom and Crucial Questions About The Kingdom of God reveals he is Pre-Mill. Yet, in his book The Blessed Hopehe reveals his position is that of a Post-Trib Rapture with the usual thinking of time governed by his treatment of the Olivet Discourse and Pre-Tribulation eschatology being a 19th century invention coming to America through Darbyism. MORE ON THIS LATER. Jim McKeever believes Christians will go through the Tribulation – but possibly only half way. His book, Christians Will Go Through The Tribulation, p.41 says, „The Book of Revelation is Sequential and these events occurred once in the middle of the seven years of Tribulation and again at the end of the Tribulation. (The logical conclusion of this view would be that the Rapture occurs in the middle of the Tribulation).
It really doesn’t matter to me which one you believe;…The position for which there is no basis is that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation. It cannot occur until the last trumpet.”
McKeever holds Rev. 12:1 to 20:6 are an amplification of Rev. 11:15-19 and the 7th Trumpet. He writes some 350 pages but only about 39 deal with his Post-Trib concept. 197 pages explain how to survive physically all the ills of the Tribulation. He of course offers for sale the necessary items suggested.
Marvin Rosenthal and his Pre-Wrath theories also depends heavily on a rapture at the 7th Trumpet. But his position is a „2/3rds” Tribulation rapture. He writes, [On page 61.]– „It will also be demonstrated that the 70th week of Daniel has three major, distinct, and identifiable periods of time: the ‘beginning of sorrows,’ the Great Tribulation, and the Day of the Lord – all found in the Olivet Discourse.”
On page 109 he also states: „This, then, is clear. The entire week is not shortened. The last three and one half years of that seventieth week are not shortened. What the Lord Himself teaches is shortened is the Great Tribulation. It is less than three and one-half years in duration. It begins in the middle of the seventieth week, but it does not run until the end of the seventieth week.
Thus Rosenthal presents a „2/3rds” Tribulation Rapture which has been veiled in the Book of „The Unveiling” for nearly 2,000 years.
Tonight, may we look at two points in my subject to be covered: (1) The Pre-Tribulation Rapture and (2) The Imminent Coming. If these are denied, we have in common in all the above theories a basis to forget looking for our Lord and the evident cause to look for seven years of tribulation and the Anti-Christ as opposed to the True Christ and the Rapture of the Saints at any time.
I. FIRST, MAY WE CONSIDER THE IMMINENT COMING OF CHRIST.
John 14:1-3 says: 1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
A. Note in V.3 Jesus says, „I WILL COME AGAIN…”
–This is a present tense used as a future in Greek. In Greek syntax this is an expression of IMMANENCY.
–Webster’s Greek Grammar says on p.82, „The present is used for the future to express the certainty of a coming event.”
–Webster quotes Vaughn’s remarks of the contrast of a future indicative active and the present indicative active used as a future and says it expresses „MORE STRONGLY”…”The certainty, imminence…”
–Danna and Mantey in A manual Grammar of The Greek New Testament, p.185 says: „This use [the Futuristic Present] of the present tense denotes an event which has not yet occurred, but which is regarded as so certain that in thought it may be contemplated as already coming to pass.”
–McDonald in his Greek Enchridion, p.20 says the same concerning this meaning immediacy.
–In fact Burton in his Moods and Tenses of The N.T. Greek, p. 10 says that the present used as a future is used „…for the sake of vividness, with reference to a fact still in the future, is recognized by all grammarians.”
B. The denial of some declares Jesus could not come immediately because.
(1) John 14:26 declares the Holy Spirit would teach His people and remind them of Christ’s words–this would take time to tell all people.
BUT, Jesus was speaking to the Apostles and he breathed on them the Spirit BEFORE He ascended in Jn. 20:22.
(2) Peter is said to have been told he would GROW OLD in John 21:18 thus he could not expect an imminent coming of Christ. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry [thee] whither thou wouldest not. (John 21:18)
BUT, V.19 explains this is signifying by what DEATH he would glorify God. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (John 21:19)
PETER PREACHED THE IMMINENT COMING: Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1 Peter 1:13)
(3) Paul is denied believing in an imminent return because it would take years for him to have revelation and preach to Jews and Gentiles.
BUT, God’s Word says Paul „Immediately conferred not with flesh and blood.”–Gal. 1:16. Acts 9:20 says „STRAIGHTWAY Paul preached Christ.”
If Paul had died a martyr the next day, his testimony would still hold this as fulfilled. –ABEL’S BLOOD YET SPEAKS… By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. (Hebrews 11:4)
(4) James preached an imminent Coming: Ja. 5:7,8, 7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. (James 5)
(5) The Churches Paul started were evidently taught the IMMINENT COMING: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: (1 Corin thians 1:7)
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51,52)
Phil. 3:20 says: For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Col. 3:4 speaks of this church’s being reminded of Christ who shall appear and they appear with Him. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
I Thess. 1:10 speaks of their waiting for Christ from heaven. And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
(6) Paul evidently taught his young preachers of the Imminent Coming:
I Tim. 6:14, That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: (1 Timothy 6:14)
THANK GOD no person or church was exhorted to wait for the Anti-Christ and seven years of tribulation.
II. MY SECOND, AND CLOSING POINT IS THE SAINTS RAPTURE IS PRE-TRIBULATION.
A. First permit me to deal with a point of history.
–In 1973 Dave MacPherson published his book: The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin. – On p.104 he writes: „In light of the evidence I have prayerfully and carefully given in this book relative to the Pre-Trib origin (which has been hidden for a long time), I hereby ask all Bible teachers to declare a moratorium on such teaching – at least until they can check this out for themselves.” –NOTE 1973. [His appendix gives Margaret Macdonald’s vision on pp. 105- 108.]
–In 1974 MacPherson wrote The Late Great Pre-Trib Rapture. On p.13 he wrote: „Those who journeyed to Scotland to visit her included John Darby of the Brethren who borrowed some of her prophetic ideas without giving her credit, then modified them and passed them off as his own. Darby’s visit to the Macdonald home in mid-1830 is related in his little known book The Irrationalism of Infidelity (1853), pp. 283-285.
As I well document in my earlier book on the Pre-Trib origin, Darby was clearly a Post-Trib until the time of Margaret’s revelation!
Although Pre-Tribs cannot name any body of Christians before 1830 that ever taught a Rapture before Tribulation, they like to say that Darby ‘rediscovered old Truths.'”
–On p.19 he also states, „The Post-Trib view was the only view of the second coming before 1830 and since that date has always been the majority view among Bible-believing Christians.”
–George Elden Ladd wrote some 17 years before this writer concerning the new Revelation of a Pre-Trib rapture and says: „It was at Powerscourt that the teaching of a pre-tribulation rapture of the Church took shape. Tregelles, a member of the Brethren in these early days, tells us that the idea of a secret rapture at a secret coming of Christ had its origin in an ‘utterance’ in Edward Irving’s Church…Tregelles says, ‘It was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose.'”
B. History Will Show Baptists Are A Group These Writers Did Not Consult:
–Benjamin Keach plainly shows he preached and believed in a Pre-Trib Rapture though he believed in a historical application of Revelation and the second coming at the 7th trumpet:
(1) ” His second personal coming I judge will be at the beginning of the thousand years reign, when ‘God will tabernacle with men,…” Rev. 21:3.
(2) „There is a precursory coming of our Lord, (as one notes) or a most glorious spiritual coming, to set up a more visible and universal kingdom in this world, which will precede his personal appearance; which I take to be the beginning of the latterday glory, and which will be at the sounding of the ‘Seventh trumpet,’ for then Jesus Christ will begin His spiritual and more visible and glorious kingdom; or ‘when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ Rev. 11:15,18. One design of this coming of our Lord, is to destroy the son of perdition, and utterly to overthrow Mystery Babylon….Now it is partly this coming of Christ (I conclude) our Lord in the first place intends, though I will not exclude his personal appearance; for I see no reason to doubt, but that the precursory coming of the Lord Jesus is to prepare things for his personal appearance; when, (as a bridegroom) he will appear to celebrate the marriage with his beloved spouse. Yet his coming upon mystery Babylon, or by his bright appearance to destroy the son of perdition, may be distinguished from the coming last mentioned, thought both may be comprehended, or included by the Bridegroom’s coming.” [Benjamin Keach, Exposition Of The Parables, p.643].
THIS IS NEARLY 150 YEARS BEFORE THE 1830 DATE OF MARGARET MACDONALD.
–Ivimey quotes Hansord Knollys, the date is 1689-1692, who states to the General Assembles at Curriers-Hall Cripplegate which is pastored by Knollys: „As Mr. Knollys has been stigmatized as of Fifth-Monarchy principles, and as the sentiments of many godly ministers upon that subject are but little known, the following extract from one of his works will explain them: ‘That the next glorious appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ, will be his virtual and spiritual coming [NOTE: Knollys is referring to the rapture as NEXT–KJ] in his saints and sanction (as the Bride groom of his church) to marry her sons (Isa. 62:4,5) and by them to reign over the nations with power and great glory a thousand years here on earth, Dan. 7:27. There are but three special kinds and times of Christ’s coming. 1. His coming in the form of a servant in the days of his flesh, Phil. 2:9. 2. His coming as judge at the last day, when he shall judge the quick and the dead, (II Tim. 4:1) called his appearance the second time, Heb. 9:29. Both these are his personal appearances, or his coming in his own person. [NOTE: Knollys separates these–KJ.] But between these two appearances, or comings of Christ in his own person, there is witnessed by the holy prophets and apostles, and recorded in the holy Scriptures of truth, another kind of Christ’s coming at another time. And that is His coming as the Bridegroom, and as the only Potentate, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, (I Tim. 6:14,15. Rev. 19:16) which is his virtual, spiritual, powerful, and glorious coming in his saints and sanction, and by them to marry his Jerusalem, Isa. 62:4,5. So shall thy sons marry thee, and with them to reign over the nations and kingdoms of the world a thousand years on earth, Rev. 10:15-17.”
–In Vol. II, p.358, Ivimey refers to Knollys and his pre-millennialism saying, „…It appears that his opinion on this subject was not different from that of Dr. Gill, and OTHERS [emp. mine–KJ].
–John Gill’s (1697-1771) position is stated in his commentary in Vol. VI, p. 560 re. I Thes. 4:15: „The apostle having something new and extraordinary to deliver, concerning the coming of Christ, the first resurrection, or the resurrection of the saints, the change of the living saints, and the rapture both of the raised and living in the clouds to meet Christ in the air, expresses himself in this manner…”
[This commentary was written over 50 years before the supposed revelation of Margaret Macdonald.]
C. Now let us go to the Word of God to also establish the rapture is Pre- Trib.
Rev. 3:10, Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
ek tes oras tou periasmou: A.T. Robertson’s small grammar, p.121 says of „ek”: „It is always true to its root idea of OUT OF.”
Dana & Mantey, p.102 says of „ek”: „In composition: out of, away – emphasis.”
–Not „dia tes oras” = dia with the genitive meaning „THROUGH THE TRIAL in PRESERVATION.
P.47 of Gundry’s book The Church and The Tribulation, –„The similarity of the first four trumpets to the Egyptian plagues at least allows that the saints will receive protection…”
I disagree THIS is meant!
D. Post-Trib, Mid-Trib, and Pre-Wrath theories neglect the outline of Rev. 1:19.
Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; (Revelation 1:19)
(1) The vision of Christ = „Things which thou hast seen.”–The glory seen of vv. 12-18.
(2) The vision of the Churches = „The things which ARE.”–These churches existed in John’s day.
(3) The vision of „The things which shall be hereafter;” (After these things.)
E. This phrase, „meta tauta” =”After these things” is the sequential key to the book of Revelation.
(1) It denies their being seven repeated visions.
(2) It establishes the continuity of the book.
(3) It is used 10 times in the book of Revelation: 1:19; 4:1 (2t); 7:1,9; 9:12; 15:5; 18:1; 19:1; and 20:3.
This is the key to lead us through the book of Revelation in the Divine sequence God has established for the outline he gave in 1:19 and leads us unto the imminent pre-trib coming of Christ.
„William Farrel, the Waldensian Baptist, cried against the worldly lives of his day which denied the reality of the coming Lord. He said, „…What has come of men meddling and playing, as they have done, with the things of God? Even the outward observances of which God has commanded have disappeared. Where is the Lord’s Supper? Who shall restore us that blessed feast, in which we are called to remember Him –to shew forth His death TILL HE COME? Alas!Men are living as though they were dedicated to heathen gods. WHO IS THERE WHO CARES THAT CHRIST IS COMING AGAIN?” [Beven, pp. 131,132.]
In The Book of Revelation:
1:19–God’s outline is given.
4:1–After the message to the 7 churches. (2t)- -It is stated God would show John what would be AFTER THE SEVEN CHURCHES.
7:1–After the 6th seal John SAW the paranthesis of the 144,000 sealed Jews.
7:9–After seeing the Jews, John saw „A GREAT MULTITUDE.” 9:12–Two more WOES are to come after the first and then the 6th trumpet is mentioned.
15:5–AFTER seeing the sea of glass, John sees the seven LAST PLAGUES OR BOWLS OF WRATH.
18:1–After the fall of RELIGIOUS BABYLON, John sees ch. 18 and commercial Babylon. [They are not the same.]
19:1–After the fall of commercial Babylon, John hears a voice of a voice of a multitude praising God for the marriage of the Lamb is come.
20:3–John says AFTER THE MILLENNIAL, Satan shall be loosed a little season.
There must be a continued sequence for the 7 seals of 6:1 goes to 8:1 which has the 7 trumpets IN THE 7TH SEAL. The 7th TRUMPET is heard in 11:15 and contains the parenthesis of explanation up to 15:5,6 where the 7 vials of wrath are seen. Included in the vision of the 7th vial are the events leading up to 19:1 which reveals the things heard by John AFTER THESE THINGS which is the preceding chapters of Revelation.